I Remember Mama
Playbill for the 1944 play, I Remember Mama
Written byJohn Van Druten, based on Kathryn Forbes' novel, Mama's Bank Account
  • Mama
  • Papa
  • Uncle Chris
  • Katrin
  • Christine
  • Dagmar
  • Arne
  • Nels
  • Florence Dana Moorhead
  • Aunt Jenny
  • Aunt Trina
MuteOctober 19, 1944
Place premieredMusic Box Theatre, New York City
Original languageEnglish
SettingIn and around San Francisco in the early 20th century

I Remember Mama is a play by John Van Druten based on Kathryn Forbes' novel Mama's Bank Account, which was loosely based on her childhood. It is a study of family life centered on a Norwegian immigrant family in San Francisco early in the 20th century. The play premiered on Broadway on October 19, 1944 at the Music Box Theatre in New York City, where it ran for 713 performances; it was produced by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The cast included Mady Christians, Oscar Homolka, and Joan Tetzel. Marlon Brando played a minor role, making his Broadway debut as Nels.


The play revolves around the life of a loving Norwegian immigrant family, the Hansons, living on Steiner Street[1][2] in San Francisco soon after the turn of the 20th century. Told through the nostalgic eye of Katrin, one of three daughters, it is the story of a working-class family trying to live the American dream. Papa Hanson is a blue-collar worker; he and Mama attempt to raise their four children so that they understand the difference between right and wrong, between selfishness and selflessness. They are assisted by Mama's uncle, Uncle Chris, whose gruff exterior hides his inner charm and generosity.

Mama and Papa (Marta and Lars) believe in hard work and a good education. They struggle to put their son, Nels, through high school, as each member of the family sacrifices in order to accomplish this. They are warm and affectionate to each other, but very frugal in their use of funds. The three aunts, Jenny, Sigrid and Trina, offer a counterpoint, as the first two are usually selfish and petty, while Aunt Trina is mostly kind.

Through their hard work, wise financial decisions, and creative common sense, Mama and Papa manage to raise and educate their children.



The play opened at the Music Box Theatre in New York City on October 19, 1944, starring Mady Christians, Richard Biship, Joan Tetzel and Oscar Homolka. The production also marked the Broadway debut of a young actor by the name of Marlon Brando. I Remember Mama was a successful production, running for 713 performances before it closed on June 29, 1946.[3]

Original cast

(Cast list as per Internet Broadway Database)[3]


The play was made into a 1948 film of the same name, which starred Irene Dunne in the titular role, as well as Barbara Bel Geddes, Philip Dorn, and Oscar Homolka who reprised the role of Uncle Chris, which he had created on Broadway. The film was nominated for 5 Academy Awards: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Irene Dunne); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Oscar Homolka); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Barbara Bel Geddes); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Ellen Corby); and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Nicholas Musuraca).[4] While they did not win any Oscars, Ellen Corby did win the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture.[5]

In 1979, Richard Rodgers transformed the original play, which he had co-produced with Oscar Hammerstein II in 1944, into a musical, also named I Remember Mama. It would be Rogers' last work prior to his death in December of that year.[6] The play was produced at the Majestic Theatre, where it previewed on April 26, 1979, and officially opened on May 31. The production ran for 108 performances, closing on September 2, and starred Liv Ullmann, George Hearn, and George S. Irving. Rodgers wrote the music, with lyrics by Martin Charnin, and book by Thomas Meehan.[7]

Mama, a CBS Television series starring Peggy Wood, ran from 1949 until 1957.[citation needed]

After the success of the screen adaptation, Dunne, Homolka, and Bel Geddes reprised their roles in a one-hour Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film on August 30, 1948.[8]

There was also a British Independent Television production in 1961.[9]


  1. ^ "Remembering I Remember Mama", New York Magazine; May 14, 1979
  2. ^ I Remember Mama, by Van Druten, John; 1945, New York, : Harcourt, Brace and Company at the Internet Archive
  3. ^ a b "I Remember Mama". Internet Broadway Database. Archived from the original on August 6, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  4. ^ "I Remember Mama, Awards". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on December 31, 2012. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  5. ^ "Ellen Corby". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on February 19, 2014. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  6. ^ "I Remember Mama". The Guide to Musical Theatre. Archived from the original on March 27, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  7. ^ "I Remember Mama". Internet Broadway Database. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  8. ^ Si Steinhauser (August 30, 1948). "Television Charged With Racket Promotion". The Pittsburgh Press. p. 27. Retrieved August 19, 2021.
  9. ^ IMDB entry for 1961 ITV production.